Exodus: Gods & Kings: Thank God it Ain’t Noah. But Please DO NOT do King David.

The story of Moses retold through the eyes of secular humanists, atheists and agnostics. Okay, in some ways it wasn’t as explicitly subversive as Noah, and I liked it somewhat, but it wasn’t a great movie, it was only a good movie. Is it offensive to the Biblical worldview? Yes, though I suspect some Christians will enjoy this movie, even with its failings, than they did the horribly-done and anti-Biblical Noah movie.

But in other ways, it is more explicitly subversive of God and the Bible than Noah.

For those familiar with the Biblical story, there are some moving moments of emotion such as every scene with Ben Kingsley as Nun, a patriarch of Israel. But also Moses’ final acceptance of his people. And of course, the plagues are quite spectacular.

The story opens with Moses as an adult and a general in the Egyptian army. The Bible doesn’t say what Moses was in the service of Egypt, so this is a logical choice for an action movie, and it will come into play later as a powerful display of man’s failure to achieve through his strength what only God himself can achieve in the Exodus.

We see Moses as beloved of the Emperor over his true son Commodus — Er, wait, was this Gladiator? Oh no, I mean Moses was beloved of the Pharoah over his true son Ramses. When Moses discovers who he is, and then Ramses discovers who he is, Moses is exiled.

Oh, all the details are trivial, let’s get to the plagues!

The point is, the story is about the rivalry between two men brought up almost as brothers and how their religious identities tear them apart. Pretty cool idea, but it didn’t engage me. I didn’t believe it. Joel Edgerton is much more believable than the terribly weak cuts they used of him in the trailer. But Christian Bale seems distant, even in his romance with his wife Zipporah. He is a great actor for cold, alienating or removed characters (like American Psycho) but Moses is a man of passionate extremes. This makes it hard to care much for the human drama of the story, especially his unromantic romance with Zipporah.

Could this be because Bale was trying to play his Moses as a “schizophrenic barbarian”? The Moses in this movie does struggle with faith in God, which is Biblically fair, and he becomes more ragged and crazy looking over time, but he never crosses that border into madness that is so typical of secular interpretations of prophets. So maybe that was just Bale’s own madness in his pursuit of some kind of method acting technique. A caveat here is that it’s a great technique to make a prophet appear to be mad to the populace, when he is actually right. That kind of irony is standard storytelling technique. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Scott actually does consider Moses a crazy leader, considering his portrayal of God as well.

The problem is that Bale’s Moses never really emotionally connects with anyone, not even God. But then, God isn’t very engaging either. And maybe this is where it starts to feel off. There is a lot of intimate and engaging relationship between Moses and Yahweh in the Bible, but in this story, Moses doesn’t talk much to God and he never seems to know if he is in fact talking to God, since he alone can see him.

And God appears as a temperamental ten year old child.

A word to all you Hollywood kiss-ass Christians who want to be accepted by the “cool” secular community: It is not merely “Fundamentalist Phariseeism” to critique the God of the movie. (One could even say defending Hollywood without discernment would be like Sadducees. Pharisees aren’t too fair, you see, but Sadducees are quite sad, you see). After all is said and done, God is everything. So, yes, we care how our God is portrayed.

Now we all know that you can’t put everything in the Bible in the movie and you have to make some changes for the sake of the movie story. But the problem with this god is not merely that it does not follow the relationship as depicted in the Bible, but for mere storytelling as well, it is an alienating unfulfilling relationship. Yes, Moses had his times of arguing with Yahweh in the Scriptures, but he also communed with him. In this movie, he does not. Even apart from the Biblical text, this simply isn’t a fulfilling relationship. It is cold and distant. But then again, I would expect that atheists, agnostics and secular humanist storytellers do not understand how to portray such communing relationship because they have no experience to go by. After all, they don’t even believe it exists.

The Depiction of God’s Presence

Okay, everyone knows how difficult it is to depict God’s presence in a film, and Ridley Scott has my sympathies. We all acknowledge that the Old Hollywood way of having a disembodied voice is visually less engaging. God did appear as the “Angel of Yahweh” in many instances in the Bible, so showing him as a human figure is Biblical and works (The name of the character in the credits is “Malak” which is the Hebrew word for Angel. The Angel of Yahweh in the Bible is “Malak Yahweh” in Hebrew). Scott has said he liked the idea of a child being innocent and pure. But in contrast, the child in his movie is quite precocious and temperamental, so I think he is not being entirely forthright with us. I think he is trying to sell us.

Ad300x250-ScreenwrtgChristiansAgain, the Bible definitely shows God getting angry, so I wouldn’t complain about that. And a child is certainly a creative choice that defies expectations, which is not inherently bad either. But watching this, you can’t help but see this impetuous child as being the incarnation of what secular humanists, agnostics and atheists like Scott and the others who wrote the movie think about the Biblical God: A tantrum throwing childish deity. This is even what many village atheists have accused the Biblical God of being in an attempt to ridicule or mock him. So I think Hollywood suck-up Christians who try to accept this incarnation as “thought-provoking,” “unique,” “conversation-starting” are just fooling themselves. The atheist and agnostic secular filmmakers are deconstructing the God of the Bible.

The Naturalism of the Story

Scott has indicated he doesn’t believe in the miracles of the Bible and wanted to depict them with some naturalistic explanations. Well, I’m going to surprise you here, but I am not entirely against depicting miracles in a way that they can be disbelieved. After all, this is exactly what happened. The Israelites would see such things and then slip right back into worshipping Ba’al or Asherah. The Egyptians and Pharaoh did not repent. The Jewish leaders concocted a theory that the disciples stole the body of the resurrected Jesus. I like the idea of showing miracles in a way that unbelievers can justify their foolishness. To be fair to Scott, during the plagues, he shows the “scientists” of Pharaoh’s court giving their pompous natural explanations for what was happening. And they clearly looked foolish, so that supported the miraculous nature of the plagues.

But here is where the story becomes confusing. Scott withdraws God so much from the story that he never communicates anything to us. The plagues just occur, one after the other without any introduction or explanation from God or Moses to anyone. To be quite frank, I would think that unless you are familiar with the story, you wouldn’t really know what was going on. And nowadays I do not think it is correct to assume that everyone knows the story. In the Bible of course, Yahweh announces through Moses each step what he is doing and why. He makes it clear. Okay, some artistic ambiguity is fine, but one can clearly see Scott’s intent is to strip God out of the picture as much as he can get away with. To make the story as human as possible. Remember, Scott does not believe Yahweh is real anyway, so he is just a metaphor for some other interpretation of human need. The more human, the less God, the better.

As a side note, the ultimate love in this story is the love that ends the picture and is a repetitive series of sayings between Moses and his wife Zipporah. “Who makes you happy? (you do). What is the most important thing in your life? (you are). When will I leave you? (never).” On a human level, these are understandable expressions of love between husband and wife. But it points out the idolatry of all humanistic stories like this. In all secular stories, the ultimate love relationship that gives meaning to life is NOT a love relationship with God, but with another human being. Again, this is understandable coming from a humanistic storyteller, that human love would become a God replacement because after all, that is the highest kind of love that they know. What secularists do not understand is that all those sayings above are what believers say of God. God is our joy, God is the most important thing in our life, and God will never leave us or forsake us. Just a little deconstruction of atheist, agnostic and secular idolatry for you.

Back to the miracles. Here is where I may surprise you. I actually liked the parting of the Red Sea as a tsunami (and the crocodile attacks turning the river to blood). It doesn’t make it less of a miracle. Kinda coincidental timing, don’t ya think? And so what if it gives unbelievers a chance to reject it. They wouldn’t believe if someone returned from the dead anyway. Now, I am not a theologian, but the term used for “dividing” the Sea in Hebrew means “to cleave, break open or break through,” (BDB lexicon), all of which can be literary or poetic expressions of what happened with that tsunami. The way the Sea was parted in the classic The Ten Commandments was just as much an interpretation and no more Biblical.

The problem with it is the same problem throughout the story. In the Bible God announces what he is going to do and challenges Moses to step out in faith and do things like pronounce the Nile will turn to blood, or in this case, hold out his staff and the waters would part. In the movie, Moses throws his sword into the water in anger that God has left them to die. Then he wakes up to see the sword sticking in the mud with the waters pulled back. So, every step is surprising to Moses. Sure, God surprises us, but I can see how Scott and his agnostic, atheist and secular storytellers want God to be unclear so that it all comes down to interpretation. In a way, it seems like making this movie for them is like the unbeliever explaining away all the miracles just like the Egyptian “scientists.”

Update: Interestingly, the most important miracle of all is the Ten Commandments written by the very “finger of God.” In the film, Moses is the one carving the tablets, not God, thus again, reducing the very foundation of morality to man’s creation, not God’s. This is far more important than you may know. What atheists, agnostics and other seculars and humanists do not realize is that without God as the foundation of morality, there is no authority above man’s arbitrary will to power. The one with the most power determines right and wrong. Period. Blather all you want about your subjective feelings, social contracts or even natural selection of morals, at the end of it all, there is no objectively real right and wrong, there is only personal feelings in conflict — the will to power.

But I deconstruct again.

The Politics of the Movie

All period pieces are stories of the past retold in light of our present situation. We tend to see through our eyes, but also seek to make lessons for the present out of the past. And movies do not exist in a vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist of an era. Thus the Noah movie becomes an environmentalist parable.

Ad300x250-IncarnSubverSo, Exodus is infected by modern Hollywood leftist anti-Israel politics. In the Bible, Moses never uses force or violence against the Egyptians. The point is to show that Yahweh is the one who delivers, not horses and chariots or man’s strength. The movie makes a similar point, but through a different path. When the movie Moses thinks he is to deliver his people, since that annoyingly precocious and distant God doesn’t explain himself, Moses concludes that he can do the only thing you can do when you are an oppressed minority: terrorist guerilla tactics of hit and run “bombings.” And God is portrayed as accepting it, and only deciding to take over with his plagues when he concludes it will take too long for terrorist tactics to work (“Maybe a generation”). So God is a revolutionary Marxist here. Or at least an Alinskyite. Oppressed workers of the World, unite and rise up! (The conquest of Canaan is a different story with a very different justification that doesn’t apply to this story).

Do you see where this is leading? Ah yes, the Jews, were terrorists themselves. The connection to today is obvious. The dominant media and most of Hollywood are Israel haters who claim Israel is the oppressor today, when they are the ones who are being attacked. Some even claim Israel is doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them (As some professors at Oxford have claimed in a recent debate with Dennis Prager). This of course is a monstrous lie. The Palestinians, who are actually Nazi-like in their ideology (dedicated to genocide) have been able to spin the liberal media and entertainment so that the Nazis are accusing their victims of being Nazis. Reprehensible. Insane. Evil. But fashionable in Hollywood. And truly postmodern. What next, accuse the Jews of being genocidal as Islamic regimes like Iran engage in genocide against them?

This is why I cannot help but have a little bit of schadenfreude when I see Scott having to squirm against the accusations of racism because his casting was white for all the leads. It’s nice to see that leftist political correctness come back on liberals. Liberals must eventually become victims of their own oppressive politics. Sweet. I would think this would show Scott that maybe he should not be part of that liberal insanity. Of course, Scott is actually in the right, on this one. It is the world market (and the money is based on the world) that wants those white people as leads. The world that is full of all kinds of non-white people will not pay for movies unless they have those evil white crackers in the lead. So, really, by liberal standards, if you are against casting Exodus to please a world of multicolored people, then YOU are the racist.

Bottom Line: Gimme Some Truth

One cannot help but compare it to the classic The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. Yes, that movie didn’t follow the Bible perfectly. Yes, it has flaws of its own, and this is a different new and modern take with a different audience with different needs and desires. But if you can just put aside all the modernist prejudice against the old classic, if you can hold off the elitist snobbery accusations of corniness, if you can suspend your modern intolerance of lesser acting and production quality of older movies, you can see something that made that old movie the massive beloved classic it is. And that something is what seems to lack in this slick special effects, cold, distant and modern version of Moses: heart and soul.

I have read liberal scholarship on King David. I know the fashionable subversion of writers like Halpern who seek to deconstruct David as a serial killer terrorist who did the opposite of everything the Bible says he did. For God’s sake, Liberal Hollywood, please DO NOT make a King David movie. Instead, I dare you to make a movie about the Islamic god, Allah, like you do about the Biblical God Yahweh. Oh no, wait, you won’t DO THAT, because THAT would get you murdered. Yahweh, Christians and Jews are safer targets for bigotry and hate speech.

One of the powerful moments of truth came from Pharaoh’s words, “Men who crave power are best fit to acquire it, and least fit to exercise it.” Maybe that’s true of Bible movies as well.

If you want an engaging and entertaining sequel to Exodus: Gods and Kings, then buy the novels, Joshua Valiant and Caleb Vigilant from the series Chronicles of the Nephilim. They will give you back that heart and soul with a love for the Biblical God so often vacant from Hollywood Biblical movies.


David Ascendant on Audiobook & Rare Nephilim Chronicles Paraphernalia

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Interstellar: Big, Bold, Beautiful and Sadly Empty Space


Sci-fi Adventure about an astronaut pilot, Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, who sets off on a space journey to discover a suitable planet outside our galaxy for the inhabitants of our dying earth to move to. In the process, he encounters other worlds through wormholes, black holes, time travel, and other anomalies of Relativity, all in the quest of returning to his beloved children back on earth to provide them and the human race a better future.

While the film is big, bold and beautiful, and does seek to explore the power of love, it ultimately fails for me and is a disappointment because it creates a false transcendence in a Humanistic feedback loop that simply does not satisfy emotionally, scientifically, or spiritually.

Christopher Nolan is the top director in Hollywood and has a track record of movies with intelligence. One of my favorites of all time is his wrestling with moral values in our postmodern world of The Dark Knight. But Inception began to reveal to me the weakness of too much intellectual exploration of ideas. The movies become more “mental” than emotional and create an alienating feeling in me as the viewer precisely because the emotional threads of the story become mere carriers of the mental construct and end up not ringing as true emotionally or dramatically.

Hmmmm, methinks I may be starting to sound too mental and emotionally detached. But hey, this is a movie analysis, NOT a narrative! J

So let me explain.

Ad300x250-HollywoodWorldviewsInterstellar is loaded with almost too many intellectual questions related to wormholes, black holes, how Relativity affects our experience of time, 4 dimensional existence versus 5 dimensions, and on. But luckily for us, we have been exposed to all these ideas in sci-fi movies for so long, and there is nothing particularly new in Nolan’s approach other than the attempt to address all of them together. Usually, movies have only enough time to explore one concept such as time travel or the nature of wormholes, etc. Even though Interstellar has almost three hours, the viewer is constantly bombarded with so many concepts that it just becomes overwhelming. That is when it becomes a bit more intellectual than emotional.

Ah, but there is plenty of emotion in this story that tries to make up for the intellectualism. Cooper has a deep love for his daughter, and his goal in the movie is to get back to her, thus fulfilling the “family love” necessary to blockbuster movies. And there are moral dilemmas explored such as self sacrifice versus selfishness, as the astronauts encounter choices of the “survival instinct” and the natural preference of family over society. These are all good moral questions to explore, but they sometimes fall into flat exposition scenes that work against the drama. Case in point: One rescued astronaut betrays another and waxes on about his reasons as he walks away. This feels like an artificial morality play more than a real drama. But the truth is, because he is exploring moral questions that I think are worthy, I have a lot of grace for such moralizing.

Nolan sets up a common sci-fi theme of the hard cold observations of science versus the warm emotional reality of humanity and how those two can battle themselves out in our pursuit of understanding the universe and our place in it. Cooper is a man of science who says at the very beginning of the story, the basic slogan of NASA: “We’ve forgotten who we are. We’re explorers and pioneers, not caretakers.” In other words, it is our human reach for the stars that helps us find our way out of the mud.

But one of the astronauts, Amelia (Ann Hathaway) is motivated by her love of a fellow astronaut they are trying to rescue on one of several distant planets. So Cooper tells her that her emotions will cloud her objectivity in making the best decision for humanity in terms of which action they need to take between two choices of who to save. She then responds with the major theme of the movie: “Maybe love is the evidence of an artifact that we cannot see. Love has the ability to transcend time and space.” The meaning here is that our search for meaning through scientific observation may be the cloud that blinds us to finding the true meaning because meaning is transcendent, while our senses are not. Only something like love can make “contact” with meaning outside of physical reality.

Okay, not bad. Except that it’s application to the actual moral choice they must make is completely false and doesn’t ring true. The woman was thinking selfishly of her own love and placing that over the concerns of the survival of the human race. The fact that Nolan can manufacture the right outcome story-wise to justify her sentiments just rings hollow because her moral choice was truly self-serving. She even says, that she “follows her heart,” which is THE single most dominant Hollywood theme and THE worst moral motivation possible in our world of selfish hearts.

But that’s not the worst of it.

The movie becomes emotionally and spiritually unsatisfying and empty when we see the climactic solution to problems as the journey takes us into a black hole.


The entire movie has a question at the back of it: Wormholes are not naturally occurring, so someone put it there for the astronauts to go through to find another galaxy to live in. But who are THEY?

Cooper sacrifices himself to save Amelia, and launches himself into the black hole to see what will happen (for science?). It is here that the futility of humanistic philosophy creates a hollow answer in the movie.

The question of extraterrestrial intelligence is an obvious possible answer. But rather than discover aliens as our saviors, Cooper instead concludes with a weird matrix experience in the black hole that “They didn’t bring us here at all. We brought ourselves.” He concludes that somehow humans evolve into 5 dimensions and create the black hole and its ability to travel in time to help them in the past.

It’s all so silly and confusing, and illustrates the futility of humanistic attempts to manufacture transcendence while deny the God of transcendence.

Ad300x250-GloryStoryOUT OF SPOILER:

The short of it is that in this movie, there is no real transcendence, and humankind is after a fashion our own creators. That desire to be saved by a higher power outside ourselves and to connect to that personal transcendence usually results in the religion of scientism that saturates so many movies with it’s pursuit of aliens (from Stargate to Contact to Prometheus and on and on). But in this case, there are no aliens, only us. And we are in a time loop creating ourselves after a manner.

And here is where the movie devolves into completely unsatisfying emptiness. Not once in the entire film does anyone ever raise the question of God. Not even to discredit Him. In all this vast and glorious space, in all the wonders of the human mind, no character on the entire planet even considers the hand of a transcendent creator as a possible means of discovering that transcendent truth. It rings so hollow and untruthful because, like Humanism, it seeks to have transcendence without God, and therefore the only transcendence can be in some kind of silly human version of love.

As if the sentiments of human beings that are pathetically contingent and embodied within finite time and space make their own transcendence in a godless universe. This is philosophically and intellectually ridiculous and emotionally, spiritually and dramatically unsatisfying.

How unlike this unsatisfying attempt to create meaning where there is none is the transcendent God of the Bible whose infinite personal love actually is the philosophical, emotional and spiritual grounding to give meaning to our understanding of love, and who is the transcendent ground of all being that gives us meaning.

To tell a story where humanity is its own creator is profoundly foolish on all levels, philosophically, spiritually, and scientifically, no matter how good a filmmaker you are, or how pretty are your special effects.

Dang it. Cause I really respect Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker. But I gotta hand it to him, his stories are a narrative of his own journey of seeking transcendence. The only thing you can find in humanity is the image of the Creator.

I am reminded of what the Psalmist wrote in these deeply satisfying lines about true transcendence…

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Now, THERE’S transcendent love for you. 


Controversial First Chapters of David Ascendant Now Online


You think you know the story of King David.
Wait till you read this.

You can read the controversial first chapters of David Ascendant online here. It’s the subscribe page, find the “Click Here for free David Ascendant chapters” at the bottom.

Then go pre-order it on Kindle here at Amazon.com.

Available in paperback this Saturday, Nov. 1.

New Exodus Movie: Moses as Schizophrenic and Barbaric? Uh oh, not again, please?

Look at that crazy schizophrenic barbarian!

Okay, so I’m thinking, Steve Zaillian writing and Ridley Scott directing the new movie Exodus: Gods and Kings means that, though they are both agnostics or atheists, they are at least great storytellers who make movies that people actually see. You know, as in good stories. Maybe, just maybe, they won’t screw it up like Aronofsky did with Noah. The trailer already looks very cool showing some of the Ten Plagues.

But then again there was that “trick the Christians” Noah trailer…

Look, I’m not talking about ridiculous fundamentalist demands to reproduce the story as the Gospel according to the Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. That movie had tons of flaws to it and departed from the Bible at key points, yet religious movie watchers still loved it because it didn’t depart from the Biblical themes.

I am talking about the subversion of Judeo-Christian heroes and their stories with a secular agenda. I hope it’s not happening again.

Here is the Christian Bale quote about Moses from Christianity Today online:

“I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life,” the forty-year-old star said. “He’s a very troubled and tumultuous man who fought greatly against God, against his calling.”

Look, Bible heroes are NOT perfect sinless creatures. Only Jesus fits that bill. Yes, Moses murdered a man, and he had a character arc that went from being adopted and raised as a pagan Egyptian to a conversion to his troubled and tumultuous faith. He had difficulty trusting Yahweh. He didn’t want to be God’s spokesman because he stuttered. And he even had arguments with God.

But Schizophrenic? Barbaric? Really?

I don't know. Look at him. Do you think he might also have Sociopathic and Christophobic tendencies? Or maybe self-loathing Anti-Semitism?

I don’t know. Look at him. Do you think he might also have sociopathic or pathological tendencies? A Moses with self-loathing Anti-Semitism?

First a Noah who is an environmentalist whacko vegan animal rights madman with delusions.

Now, a Moses who is a schizophrenic barbarian?

What next? A  Jesus with Christophobia and bipolar delusions, who hates God, and wants to sin?

Oh wait, Scorsese already did that in the 80s and it flopped big time too. Whew.

I only hope that the comment is more a reflection of the actor’s own ignorant bigotry than of the actual movie.

But I’ll tell you on release week.

I pray it isn’t happening all over again.

UPDATE: Darrick reminded me: Then again, Ridley Scott did give us Jesus as an alien.
Not a good track record, there, either, brilliant studio execs.


Now, there’s a guy with multiple personality disorder. Remember that barbaric reaction on set?


P.S. I wrote a novel, Joshua Valiant, that tells the story of the conquest of Canaan after the Red Sea event, and I have a very human, very flawed Moses and Joshua in a very brutal world — with plenty of Biblical sex and violence — and gritty real faith. Check it out here.



Fury: War and Evil Through the Eyes of Manly Christianity


Maybe Fury is just another guys’ violent war movie about how war is hell.

But I doubt it

Fury is a war movie about a tank squad rumbling through the German countryside, killing SS and German soldiers near the end of World War II.

But it is so much more.

Battle movies can actually be quite boring if they reduce to guys spouting jokes and ironic lines as they move from battle scene to battle scene. But Fury does not degrade into that. Brad Pitt as the leader of the squad, “Wardaddy,” does a great job with a lead character that is otherwise a bit thin on development. The “new guy” protagonist, Norman, is an archetype of the innocent inexperienced soldier who comes of age in a brutal world. He struggles with his first kill, helped by Wardaddy, and has to grow up fast by accepting the tragic reality that whatever he does or doesn’t do directly affects the survival of his comrades in arms. So, when Norman is forced to kill his first SS captive, he balks and says it isn’t right. Wardaddy explains that it isn’t about right and wrong, it’s about survival against soldiers who will kill you if you do not kill them first. This is not a brutish denial of morality, but rather a simplified way of explaining the hard reality that when evil people seek to kill you, if good men do not kill them first, then evil will prevail. Sound at all familiar with the terror of today? At another moment, Wardaddy says to Norman the theme of the film, “Ideals are peaceful, history is violent.” It seems that to Wardaddy, it is the soldier’s sacrifice that builds the freedom upon which normal citizens can have the luxury to moralize.

In another memorable scene, Wardaddy and Norman find an apartment with a lady and her young daughter (or niece. I can’t remember). Wardaddy cleans up and has the women make them a home cooked meal in a tension filled metaphoric attempt to experience that semblance of civil society that they had to give up to fight the war. Wardaddy also keeps his more animalistic members of the squad from raping the women. It showed the human decent side of a harsh leader that seeks to keep the goodness of what they fought for in his memory.

One word: Profound.

Ad300x250-TEAWcommentaryBut what moved me most about the film was Shia LeBeouf’s stellar performance as Boyd Swan, a Bible believing Christian. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a real manly Christianity in a Hollywood movie like this. Normally, they are Roman Catholic or other mainline denomination, which are more safe characters to play. But such Protestants or Evangelical Christians are usually portrayed as nutballs, murderers and hypocritical leches. Three cheers to Director David Ayer for finally portraying an Evangelical Christian with positive rigorous and manly vigor!

Shia’s wordless looks alone stole the movie and said more than all the words being tossed around between the men. Not once was Boyd mocked by the storyteller. Oh, sure, his buddies in the story mocked him playfully, but in the end, they all respected him and his convictions. There is even a theological discussion about God’s love in relation to evil men like Hitler, and I could not believe that the issue was wrestled with honestly and with integrity unlike what I have seen before in a war movie (Other than To End All Wars). It showed that clearly the writer director was a Christian because it showed a nuance and depth unseen in other movies by non-Christian storytellers who observe faith from a distance without understanding.

There is a moment the night before the men face their ultimate battle. It is the “dark night of the soul” moment in the story. Boyd mentions a Bible verse that led him into the war, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And then Wardaddy finishes the verse, saying, “Then I said, “Here I am! Send me. Isaiah 6:8.” And we see that Wardaddy is not as cold and cruel and cynical as he appears on the surface. There is more to what we see here than a brute fighting machine.

The men all share a “Last Supper” of sorts with a drink of bourbon and a smoke. It is a holy moment as they face their sacrificial impossible last fight. The men are not unscathed by the horrors of war. They have all been damaged, and the faith of Boyd deals squarely and honestly with that reality. It doesn’t devolve into a blinded ideological denial.

Ad300x250-TEAWscriptBut the point is that rather than making faith at odds with the war, as an unlivable contradiction, or even as something to be mocked as an oddity of personality in one of the characters, the Christian faith of Boyd actually becomes the thing that gives true spiritual depth to the meaning and sacrifice of the story. Without Christianity, war is senseless survival of the fittest with death upon death. But only with Christianity can the purpose of fighting transcend mere will to power and give meaning to the notion of good fighting for justice in an evil world. It isn’t easy and it doesn’t give all the answers, but it is a muscular faith that faces the gritty real world.

The writer director David Ayer is my new storytelling hero.

The Equalizer: Cathartic Violence in an Unjust America


Maybe The Equalizer is just a violent guys vigilante revenge flick.
But I doubt it.

I saw this a week or so ago. But it’s been on my mind a bit because it was such a good story. It got me thinking about vigilante movies and why they are so emotionally moving.

The story is about Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, an ex-CIA killer, who has gotten out of the Company, and is trying to live a normal life as a blue collar worker at a Home Depot like company. He lives alone and has OCD, which makes him a little too orderly, but without losing his friendliness for people. Denzel meets a young hooker, played my Chloe Grace Moretz, at the diner where he reads a book. Of course, he is an honorable guy and tries to inspire her to leave her world and live a better life. He tells her something to the effect of “We can do anything we choose to do to make our lives better.” She is abused by her pimps, who are Russian mob and so Robert tries to “buy her freedom.” He goes to the headquarters of the Russian mob and offers them all the money he has, $9800 to let her go. They laugh at him, and then attempt to put him out of his misery.

They should not have done that.

Robert kills them all, which starts a hunt by the big boss of those bad guys, and well, you know the rest. It’s all very formulaic. But it’s fantastic. I have written about revenge movies and vigilante violence as being immoral in posts on The Punisher, Walking Tall and Sin City, and my most detailed in reference to A Time To Kill. In Man on Fire Denzel’s character learns that he can only save the innocent with self sacrifice not revenge, which is also an ironic challenge to vigilanteism.

But what makes this a great moral movie is how they play Robert’s approach. He is not a vigilante killer who goes around and kills people he thinks deserves to die outside the law. He actually offers evildoers a face to face opportunity to right their wrong or to repay their victims. He confronts them with their sin and challenges them to repent. Then he only takes them out, when the bad guys, who obviously laugh at him and never repent, then try to hurt or kill him. So he is actually acting in self defense, which is completely legal and morally justifiable.

At one point we see that Robert is reading Don Quixote, and he says something like, “it’s about a knight in a world without chivalry,” which is clearly the theme of this movie. We have lost our heroic chivalrous nature because of our corruption.


It got me thinking: Why are vigilante stories so powerful? Why do they draw us in with such a strong cheer for the hero? It’s not because we just like to see violence. I believe it is because they are cathartic in giving us stories of justice in a society where justice is blocked by corruption. When our own society becomes so corrupt and unjust, normal law abiding citizens become so saddened and frustrated with the evil that goes unpunished. We long for justice that is not being served. So vigilante movies (And again, The Equalizer is not the immoral vigilante type) serve to satisfy that desire that evil will be punished.

And then I realized why this movie is so timely and resonant. Right now, we live in a society of widespread injustice and increasing polarization. Liberals say we have an unjust racist society, conservatives say we have a society that is peddling false racism as a dog whistle that creates reverse racism and justification for racist knockout games, flash mobs and riots. Liberals say we are denying global warming, conservatives that we are denying Islamic terrorism. Liberals say we need Big Government because we are so unjust, conservatives say we have a corrupt unjust Big Government with a president who is violating the constitution with Executive Orders, and using the IRS and FBI to persecute his political enemies and influence elections. Liberals would say our laws are unjust regarding immigration and gun control, conservatives would say we have a corrupt Department of Justice and a criminal racist Attorney General who violated the laws he swore to uphold with racist policies, defiant non-enforcement and criminal conspiracies like Fast and Furious. Both sides warn of increasing militarized police.

What do you think?

Maybe The Equalizer is just a violent guys vigilante revenge flick.
But I doubt it.